Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Arizona’s new voting laws that require proof of citizenship are not discriminatory, judge rules

By 37ci3 Mar1,2024



PHOENIX – A federal judge upholds the provisions new Arizona laws It would require states to verify the status of registered voters who do not provide proof of U.S. citizenship and cross-check voter registration information with various government databases.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that Arizona lawmakers did not discriminate when they passed the laws and that the state had an interest in preventing voter fraud and limiting voting to eligible voters.

“Considering the evidence as a whole, the court concludes that Arizona’s interests in preventing noncitizens from voting and promoting public confidence in Arizona elections outweigh the limited burden voters may face when required to provide (documentary proof of citizenship),” he said.

However, Bolton noted that requiring people using state registration forms to list their state or country violates a provision of the Civil Rights Act and part of the National Voter Registration Act. Doing so, he explained, would result in the naturalized person being a noncitizen based solely on the subjective beliefs of naturalized citizens, county records.

The lengthy ruling summarizes the testimony of a bench trial in late 2023 in which experts testified about Arizona’s history of voting discrimination. This includes literacy tests that prevented Native American and Latino voter turnout in the 1970s and 1980s, and voter roll purges that prevented minorities from re-registering to vote.

That was the past, the judge wrote, noting that there was no evidence by the plaintiffs that lawmakers intended to suppress voter registration by members of minority groups or naturalized citizens when considering bills in 2022.

The laws came amid a wave of proposals Republicans have introduced since Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over Donald Trump in Arizona.

In an earlier ruling, Bolton blocked an Arizona law requiring people using a federal voter registration form to provide additional proof of citizenship if they want to vote for president or use the state’s mail-in voting system. The judge ruled that those provisions were violated by a 1993 federal voter registration law.

It also ruled that the 2018 consent decree prevented Arizona from implementing its new requirement to reject any state voter registration forms that are not accompanied by proof of citizenship. The ruling states that Arizona may not reject another valid state voter registration form without proof of citizenship, but must register such an applicant for federal elections.

Arizona must accept a federal registration form, but anyone who does not provide proof of citizenship is only allowed to vote for president, the U.S. House of Representatives, or the Senate. The federal form requires people to swear that they are US citizens, but requires no proof.

Federal-only voters have been the subject of political controversy since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona could not require people to provide documentary proof of citizenship to vote in national elections. The state responded by creating two classes of voters: those who could vote in all races and those who could only vote in federal elections.

After being approved on a party line vote, then-Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the measures into law.

“Election integrity means every legal vote is counted and illegal attempts are prohibited,” Ducey wrote. March 2022 letter when confirming one of the offers.

The laws were challenged by voting rights groups US Department of Justice. They argued that the new rules would make voter registration more difficult. Some also suggested the laws were an attempt to bring the issue back before a more conservative Supreme Court.

While supporters say the measures will only affect voters who don’t show proof of citizenship, voting advocates have argued that hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t recently renewed their voter registration or driver’s license could be affected.

Arizona has required documentary proof of citizenship since 2005, and the new laws supplement that requirement to ensure that noncitizens do not register to vote or remain on voter rolls, the ruling said.

One of the two measures being explored by Bolton would require state election officials to check registration information with various government databases to try to prove citizenship and report anyone they can’t find to prosecutors.

“The court finds that, although it can happen, noncitizen voting in Arizona is extremely rare, and noncitizen voter fraud in Arizona is rarer still,” the judge states. “But while voting laws are unlikely to significantly reduce possible noncitizen voting in Arizona, they may help prevent noncitizens from registering or voting.”



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